Saturday, August 30, 2014

Khaled Hosseini

Khaled Hosseini is the bestselling author of The Kite Runner and And the Mountains Echoed. From his Q & A with Kate Kellaway at The New Review:

How important a role does storytelling play in your life?

I used to tell stories to my kids. They are 13 and 11 now, but I used to put them to bed and they loved it when I made up folk tales. I'd make sure there was a cliffhanger every night. It was a powerful tool to get them to clean their teeth and go to bed. I improvised every night and loved it. My grandmother and father were gifted storytellers. The opening fable in And the Mountains Echoed – although I made it up – pays homage to the stories I heard growing up. It may be the blinding light of nostalgia but there used, I think, to be more appetite in those days – and longer attentions spans – for sitting down to a story.

When did your family leave Afghanistan for the US?

We left Kabul in 1976. My father had a diplomatic post in Paris. After the Soviet invasion, we applied for political asylum in the US. It was 1980, I was 15. For my parents, who had always been on the giving side of things, it was an affront to live on state benefit – charity. My dad found work as a driving instructor, my mother [formerly a teacher] as a waitress and then a beautician – she learned to cut hair and worked in a salon for two decades. My father, ironically, later became...[read on]
The Kite Runner is one of Roger Moore's six best books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 29, 2014

Courtney Maum

Courtney Maum is the author of the novel, I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You, out now from Touchstone Books. The humor columnist behind the “Celebrity Book Review” on Electric Literature and an advice columnist for Tin House, she splits her time between the Massachusetts Berkshires and New York City.

From Maum's Q & A with Ana Homayoun:

Q. Your debut novel, I AM HAVING SO MUCH FUN WITHOUT YOU, is mainly set in Paris, where you moved after graduating from Brown University. Who or what encouraged the move? What did you do while you were there? What made you come back to the States?

I studied abroad in Paris and I just had that “this is it” feeling that you get when you know a match is right. It can happen with romantic partners, as it can with cities. I just felt like Paris was a place that I could thrive in: the way that I think and act and am inspired simply makes sense there. My senior year of college, I had a French boyfriend which made the move easier in terms of logistics, but we ended up breaking up three months after I arrived. He said he’d drive me back to the airport and I was like, “Are you kidding? I’m staying!” Rather naively, I went to Paris without a working visa so I had to take a lot of sketchy jobs—one was working for an online psychologist, another was consulting as a trend forecaster for a French woman who threw chairs around the office when she wasn’t happy about something. I finally ended up getting a visa to work as a party promoter for Corona Extra where I worked for three years. I ended up moving back after five years in France because my family and friends were beginning to forget that I existed—I have a younger half-brother who wrote an essay saying that he had a sister who was French. Plus, my husband (who I met three years into my Paris sojourn) is a French filmmaker who had never lived anywhere but Paris, and...[read on]
Visit Courtney Maum's website.

The Page 69 Test: I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Daniel Kehlmann

Daniel Kehlmann was born in Munich in 1975 and lives in Berlin and New York. His works have won the Candide Prize, the Doderer Prize, the Kleist Prize, the Welt Literature Prize, and the Thomas Mann Prize. His new novel is F.

From Kehlmann's conversation with Jonathan Franzen, in Salon:

Jonathan Franzen: I want to start by saying I’m a big fan of this book. It may be my favorite thing of yours yet, although I’m also a huge fan of “Fame.” It seems like this is a novel about a genuinely serious philosophical question — why our life takes the particular path it does — and about the weirdness of being inside a life while it’s taking the turns it does. But for me the actual experience of reading the book was page after page of comedy. One of the three brothers at the center of it is this grossly overweight priest who can’t stop eating and doesn’t believe in God. Another one is an investment banker who’s trying to conceal from everyone in his life that his business is going down in flames – another classic comic situation. And then you have the third brother working as an art forger in the art world, which is a pretentious and phony place where people are doing pretentious and phony and craven things. It’s all just really, really funny. So my first question would be: Are you comfortable with being called a comic novelist?

Daniel Kehlmann: Yes, I am. I published my first novel when I was 22. It is a very serious book. I was one of these writers who feel that the funny and playful part of their personality is the part they should leave out of the books because literature is serious business. It took me a while to understand that if in life I like to laugh about things, then I should try to get that side of myself into the books. It took me a while to learn how to work with comic effects.

It seems like you’re definitely further in that direction, because this is your funniest book yet. I wonder if that creates difficulties for you in Germany. The stereotype from the U.S. is that Germans are extremely serious. Even here, if you put the word “comic” in front of the word “novelist” — it’s just what you say. Comic is the opposite of serious, and I have a feeling it’s even more that way in Germany. Correct me if I’m wrong.

“Measuring the World“ was a comic novel about classical German culture, and that’s how reviewers around the world saw it right away, but it was not considered a comic novel in Germany when it came out. Detecting humor is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Lev Grossman

Lev Grossman is the author of the bestselling Magicians trilogy.

From his Q & A with Laura Miller at Salon:

The Magicians trilogy takes two bodies of source material in children’s literature — the Chronicles of Narnia and the Harry Potter books — and transfigures them by moving them into adult fiction, with an adult perspective on the world. What were you up to with that?

I thought of it as having a conversation. I believe Harold Bloom’s “Anxiety of Influence” theory about authors needing to define themselves through rebelling against a forerunner. In a weird way I really felt that I was talking to J.K. Rowling and C.S. Lewis and trying to tell them about how my life was different from the lives of their characters. I had to explain to C.S. Lewis how poorly I’d been prepared for some of the challenges of early middle age by my obsessive childhood rereading of the Chronicles of Narnia. There was nothing in there about quarterly estimated taxes and midlife depression. And really nothing useful in there at all about sex. I felt like I needed to say, “It’s wonderful what you did. I love it and I always will, but I have to tell you there are some gaps here and I’m going to try to fill them in.”

It really is like having a conversation with your parents. You love your parents, but they’re absolutely maddening and you despise them. It’s a both-and situation. One of the primal reading experiences of my life was “Watchmen” by Alan Moore, which was this utterly scathing demolition of the superhero story and all the conventions it stood on — and at the same time the greatest superhero story that had ever been written. So it is possible to write a critique and a loving homage at the same time in one work and that’s what...[read on]
The Magicians is on Joel Cunningham's list of eight great books for fans of Donna Tartt's The Secret History.

The Page 69 Test: The Magicians.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Megan Abbott

Megan Abbott is the Edgar®-winning author of the novels Queenpin, The Song Is You, Die a Little, Bury Me Deep, and The End of Everything. Her 2012 novel, Dare Me, was chosen by Entertainment Weekly and Amazon as one of the Best Books of 2012 and is soon to be a major motion picture.

Abbott's latest novel is The Fever:

From the author's Q & A with David W. Brown for The Atlantic:

The Fever is loosely based on the 2012 mass hysteria outbreak in Le Roy, New York. What is it about that story that inspired you to write this novel?

It kind of came out of nowhere. I had always wanted to do a novel that addressed some of the same issues connected to the Salem Witch trials, but set in the modern day. So that was in the back of my head. When the [outbreak] story first broke in downstate New York in January 2012, I turned on the Today Show and saw two of the girls on camera. They had developed these tics—motor and vocal tics—and they were completely mystified by what was happening, and they looked so frightened and upset, as did their parents who were with them. It was really unsettling. And then I immediately started writing. The case was in the background as...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Megan Abbott's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Fever.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 25, 2014

Steven Pressman

Steven Pressman is the author of 50 Children: One Ordinary American Couple’s Extraordinary Rescue Mission into the Heart of Nazi Germany.

From his Q & A with the Christian Science Monitor's books editor Marjorie Kehe:

Q: Why has this dramatic story not received more attention over the decades?

Neither Gil nor Eleanor Kraus themselves ever talked publicly (or, for that matter, even with their own family or friends) about what they had done in the spring of 1939. Once they had brought the 50 children into the United States, they both put this episode behind them. After I began interviewing some of the rescued children (who are now well into their 80s), I realized that many of them did not know too many of the details of the rescue mission.

So for all these decades, there really wasn’t anyone around who was able to tell the full story. Fortunately, my wife – who is one of Gil and Eleanor’s four grandchildren – had kept a copy of her grandmother’s private memoir, which is what allowed me to finally bring this story to light.

Q: How closely does your book track Eleanor’s memoir?

Eleanor's memoir provided me with a fairly detailed blueprint for telling the story of the rescue mission. It certainly would have been difficult, if not impossible, to fully recount the Krauses' own actions without the memoir.

But the book also tells a much broader story about the political and social conditions that existed in the United States during the 1930s, which form an essential backdrop against which the children's rescue mission took place. The book also focuses a great deal on the families and backgrounds of many of the rescued children, all of whom...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Colleen Hill

Colleen Hill is associate curator of accessories at The Museum at The Fashion Institute of Technology. She is the author of Exposed: A History of Lingerie, a book accompanying a show by the same title.

From Hill's Q & A at FIT's blog:

What drew you to the topic of lingerie? Can you talk about your process in putting together the exhibition? With such a broad topic, where does one begin?

CH: I’ve always loved lingerie. As a teenager, I incorporated vintage slips and bed jackets into my wardrobe. My interest in the MFIT lingerie collection began in 2007, when I was organizing an exhibition entitled Seduction. Although I only included a small selection of lingerie in that show, I got a sense of how many important lingerie garments were in the Museum’s permanent collection. More recently, MFIT received several donations of especially beautiful lingerie, such as a 1940s couture nightgown by Juel Park, and a gorgeous bandeau bra from the 1920s.

Since the Museum has such a vast collection of lingerie, I began by selecting some of the most visually striking and intricately crafted pieces. At the same time, I started to conduct preliminary research to determine which garments were most historically important. Finally, I researched each object individually, focusing on primary sources such as magazines, catalogs, and advertisements. These sources also helped our team to determine how many of the garments would have looked on the body, so that our mannequins could be dressed as accurately as possible.

As you worked on the exhibition, did any facts about lingerie’s history surprise you?

CH: One of my favorite research discoveries was a sheer bra, called the “Illusion,” that was designed in 1949. In many ways, it was similar to Rudi Genreich’s “no bra” bra of the 1960s. I discovered the earlier example in a trade magazine entitled Corsets and Underwear Review. At some point, a reader had circled the photograph of the Illusion bra and written “disgusting” next to it. It was fascinating to see such a reaction! It’s likely that some people thought Gernreich’s sheer bras to be distasteful too, of course—but his underwear did sell very well, and it’s essential to lingerie history. There are...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 22, 2014

Kelli Stanley

Kelli Stanley is a critically-acclaimed, multiple award-winning author of crime fiction (novels and short stories). She makes her home in Dashiell Hammett’s San Francisco, a city she loves to write about.

Stanley is best known for the Miranda Corbie series of historical noir novels and short stories set in 1940 San Francisco. The first novel of the series, City of Dragons, introduced Miranda, the unforgettable protagonist Library Journal calls "one of crime’s most arresting heroines.”

City of Dragons won the Macavity Award for Best Historical Novel, and was nominated for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, a Shamus Award, a Bruce Alexander Award and an RT Book Reviews Award, was a Mystery Guild selection of the month, and placed on many “best of the year” lists.

City of Secrets, the sequel to City of Dragons, was released by Thomas Dunne/Minotaur to great critical acclaim, was nominated for a number of awards and won the Golden Nugget for best mystery set in California.

Stanley's latest novel in the series is City of Ghosts.

From the author's Q & A with Holly West for Do Some Damage:

Holly West: CITY OF GHOSTS touches upon several historical events/topics: The looting of art during WWII, Americans working as spies for the Nazis, and the Nazis censuring and destroying what the regime considered to be "degenerate" art and literature. One of the benefits of writing historical fiction is that we can use real-life historical events to inform our plots. It doesn't necessarily make the writing easier, but definitely provides some direction. In plotting, do you start with a historical event you'd like to explore in more depth or are your plots more about where you'd like to take Miranda Corbie as a character, then choosing the historical elements to follow?

Kelli Stanley: Holly, you ask the best questions! I know this is going to sound less than definitive, but the answer is both. There are historical elements from this period that I wanted to address—tensions between Japanese and Chinese Americans in Chinatown (CITY OF DRAGONS); anti-Semitic, pro-fascist American hate groups and how eugenics (and America’s role in promoting it) led to Hitler’s Germany (CITY OF SECRETS).

For CITY OF GHOSTS, I wanted to explore the theme of art—who owns it, who values or devalues it, and what it means to a nation or a culture. That dovetailed historically with what the Nazis were doing to dispossessed Jews and conquered countries like Poland—a wholesale theft and destruction of cultural patrimony. I also wanted to write a train scene—that was purely personal. In every book, there’s at least one scene in which I tackle a noir or hardboiled—or, in this case, traditional mystery—trope. They’re fun to write—an homage, if you will. The gambling scene in CITY OF SECRETS is another example.

Miranda’s character development is on almost a separate trajectory from the exterior plot mechanics; one of my challenges is to mesh each thread and theme so that they work to produce a united and hopefully seamless result. In other words, I put her in situations that I’m interested in and see how she reacts. In CITY OF GHOSTS, for example, she spends time in Reno because...[read on]
Learn more about the novel and author at Kelli Stanley's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Kelli Stanley & Bertie.

The Page 69 Test: City of Dragons.

The Page 69 Test: City of Secrets.

The Page 69 Test: City of Ghosts.

My Book, The Movie: City of Ghosts.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Rebecca Makkai

Rebecca Makkai is a Chicago-based writer whose first novel, The Borrower, is a Booklist Top Ten Debut, an Indie Next pick, an O Magazine selection, and one of Chicago Magazine's choices for best fiction of 2011. Her short fiction has been chosen for The Best American Short Stories for four consecutive years (2011, 2010, 2009 and 2008), and appears regularly in journals like Harper's, Tin House, Ploughshares, and New England Review.

Makkai's new novel is The Hundred-Year House.

From her Q & A with Christine Sneed:

Tell us a little about your new novel.

It’s the story of a haunted house and a haunted family, told backwards over the 20th century. We start in 1999 with Doug and Zee move into the grand estate’s coach house. (Zee’s mother owns the whole place.) Doug is fascinated by the house’s previous life as an artists’ colony, and hopes to find something archival there about the poet Edwin Parfitt, who was in residence at Laurelfield in the twenties (and whose work happens to be Doug’s area of scholarship). When he learns that there are file cabinets full of colony materials in the attic, Doug is anxious to get to work and save his career—but his mother-in-law refuses him access. With help from friends, Doug finally does access the Parfitt file—only to find far stranger and more disturbing material than he bargained for.

Doug may never learn all the house’s secrets, but the reader does, as the narrative zips back in time from 1999 to 1955 and 1929. We see the autumn right after the colony’s demise, when its newlywed owners are more at the mercy of the place’s lingering staff than they could imagine; and we see it as a bustling artists’ community fighting for survival in the last, heady days of the 1920s.

Through it all, the residents of Laurelfield are both plagued and blessed by the strange legacy of Laurelfield’s original owners: extraordinary luck, whether good or bad.

The Hundred-Year House is so different from your first novel, The Borrower (though in both you balance both the serious and the comic with such aplomb) - what was the inspiration for The Hundred-Year House? Were there any novels (mysteries, for example) you were thinking of when you began drafting it?

I did think a lot about books like The Haunting of Hill House and The Turn of the Screw and Rebecca – ones that are more about rattled people than rattling chains. I love that space between skepticism and fear that allows so much to happen. It’s the same space where there’s room for us as readers.

These books weren’t the original inspiration for the novel, though....[read on]
Learn more about the author and her work at Rebecca Makkai's website, Facebook page and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: The Borrower.

The Page 69 Test: The Hundred-Year House.

My Book, The Movie: The Hundred-Year House.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Katie Crouch

Katie Crouch's latest novel is Abroad.

From her Q & A with Lisa Marie Basile for Tin House:

LMB: What inspired you to write Abroad from the perspective of the deceased, and were you ever worried people would call the book “that story about Amanda Knox?”

KC: I didn’t worry about that latter question, because there are so many nonfiction books about Amanda Knox I found it kind of a moot point. There was also another excellent novel about Knox rushed to publication to pre-empt mine. So by the time my book came out, I wasn’t worried about Ms. Knox knocking on my door saying, what the hell? It was well-tread ground.

That said, my book is actually very different. The main focus wasn’t Knox at all. It was the victim. I was in Italy when I decided to write this, and all anyone could talk about was “Angel Face”, the beautiful American. And very few people could remember [the young woman Knox was accused of killing] Meredith Kercher’s name. I found that fascinating, and alarming. Because as I started researching and interviewing people about the case, I found the most relevant answers to what happened always led back to her. She was the only one who knew the truth, but she couldn’t relay it. Which was a terrific place...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Rufi Thorpe

Rufi Thorpe received her MFA from the University of Virginia in 2009. A native of California, she currently lives in Washington D.C. with her husband and son.

Thorpe's debut novel is The Girls From Corona del Mar.

From her Q & A with Lucy Walton at Female First:

Please tell us about the characters of Mia and Lorrie Ann.

Mia grows up with an alcoholic mom and a disinterested step-dad, and she feels very much like she is riding the edge and trying to keep her two younger brothers safe at the same time. What she sees in her parents is that they aren’t in control, and as a consequence, she’s desperate for control. It’s her very fear that she’ll become a bad person that actually leads her to live a very stable and “good” life. Lorrie Ann, on the other hand, comes from what seems like a very stable, church going family. She’s beautiful and smart and at ease with herself, but life really deals her a whacky hand and she’s got to figure out how to play it.

What made you want to explore friendship with this book?

My friendship with my best friend is one of the major through lines of my life. The ways in which we know each other, love each other, judge and forgive each other form much of the “plot” for me, and so I tried to write a book about a relationship like that, that was so important and yet so complicated, so intimate and yet so distant. What has amazed me is...[read on]
Visit Rufi Thorpe's website.

Writers Read: Rufi Thorpe.

The Page 69 Test: The Girls from Corona del Mar.

My Book, The Movie: The Girls from Corona del Mar.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 18, 2014

Lois Lowry

Laura Smith of Slate interviewed Lois Lowry about The Giver, the book as well as the adaptation. Part of the Q & A:

Slate: People have very strong feelings about [The Giver]. For me, it was the gateway book to a life of bookwormishness, but more strikingly, it endowed me with deep skepticism of conformity. Do you hear this often? What effect does this have on you?

Lois Lowry: I do hear it often, and am always deeply touched by the response. I like your phrase “skeptics of conformity.” It was something I felt deeply as a child though I would not have known what to call the feeling. I grew up on military bases because my father was a career army officer, and I was always vaguely at odds with the rigidly ordered lives that they valued and that I was for the most part forced to live. In 1952, when I was 15 and living on Governors Island (NY) which was then First Army Headquarters, I encountered the newly-published The Catcher in the Rye. Of course that book became the iconic anti-establishment novel for my generation. And The Giver has been that for many of today’s kids: the book that confirms their feeling that the governing body, be it president or parents, may be getting it wrong.

Slate: Jeff Bridges has been very committed to The Giver throughout, originally buying the screen rights and intending for his father to be cast in the role of the Giver. Do you know what specifically spoke to him about the book?

Lowry: He describes having first been attracted to...[read on]
The Giver made Guy Lodge's round-up of ten of the best dystopias in fiction, film, art, and television, Joel Cunningham's list of six great young adult book series for fans of The Hunger Games and Lauren Davis's top ten list of science fiction’s most depressing futuristic retirement scenarios.

Writers Read: Lois Lowry (July 2009).

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Lois Lowry & Alfie.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Charles D. Bailyn

Charles D. Bailyn is the author of What Does a Black Hole Look Like?.

From a Q & A with the author at the Princeton University Press website:

What is the biggest misunderstanding that people have about astronomy?

Well, I'm always a bit amused and dismayed when I tell someone that I'm an astronomer, and they ask "what's your sign?" -- as if astronomy and astrology are the same thing. I used to tell people very seriously that I'm an Orion -- this is puzzling, since most people know it's a constellation but not part of the zodiac. At one point I had an elaborate fake explanation worked out about how this could be.

Why did you write this book? Who do you see as its audience?

There seem to be two kinds of books on black holes and relativity -- books addressing a popular audience that use no math at all, and textbooks that focus on developing the relevant physical theory. This book was designed to sit in the middle. It assumes a basic knowledge of college physics, but instead of deriving the theory, its primary concerns are the observations and their interpretation. I'm basically talking to myself as a sophomore or junior in college.

How did you come up with the title?

The Frontiers in Physics (Princeton) series like to have questions in the title, and this one is particularly provocative. Black holes by definition cannot be seen directly, so asking what they "look like" is a bit of an oxymoron. But a lot of modern astrophysics is like that -- we have powerful empirical evidence for all sorts of things we can't see, from planets around distant stars to the Dark Matter and Dark Energy that make up most of the stuff in the Universe. The...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Maria Venegas

Maria Venegas's new memoir is Bulletproof Vest: The Ballad of an Outlaw and His Daughter.

From a Q & A at her website:

In Bulletproof Vest, your first book, you write about your family, especially your father, who led a very tumultuous and violent life. How did you decide to write about him? Was it difficult to take on such a personal subject?

My father used to be my best-kept secret. For years I never talk about him, or the past. When I was a child, he seemed to be larger than life, indestructible, but when I finally returned to Mexico to visit him after having been estranged for 14 years, he seemed deflated, somehow. On the day I was to return to New York, he drove me to the bus station, and when we hugged goodbye his chin started quivering. I thought he'd drive me to the station, we'd say goodbye, and that would be the end of it, but his sudden display of emotions caused something to shift within me. Over the next several years I continued to visit him during the holidays and summers, and he began sharing stories about his past—when he was seven years old and was being bullied at school, his mother handed him a carving knife and told him to go eff those kids up; after shooting a man for the first time when he was 12 years old, his mother never lost an opportunity to brag about her son and how brave he was. Perhaps sharing these stories was his way of explaining to me why he had lived such a violent and self-destructive life. I felt compelled to write about him, to try and make sense of how he was wired. It was through the writing that I developed empathy for him, and came to embrace him for who he was.

To answer your second question, there is that old saying: Write what scares you. I never thought I'd be writing about my past—especially not my father. To write about the past is to relive it, and even though that was extremely painful, it was ...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 15, 2014

Emily Arsenault

Emily Arsenault is the author of The Broken Teaglass, In Search of the Rose Notes, and Miss Me When I'm Gone.

Her new novel is What Strange Creatures.

From Arsenault's Q &A with Caroline Leavitt:

How did you find out about Margery Kempe, the medieval mystic, and how does she function in the novel?

I learned about Margery Kempe through a survey of early English lit class when I was fulfilling credits for English teaching certification years ago. I was intrigued by her unusual life—particularly the fact that she managed to convince her husband to allow her to take a vow of celibacy—and to go on pilgrimages by herself—after she’d had fourteen children with him. When I started What Strange Creatures, I knew I wanted Theresa to have kind of a quirky dissertation topic, so Margery Kempe came back to mind. It wasn’t until then that I read the entire Book of Margery Kempe (her autobiography—which she had a scribe write for her, as she was illiterate). I was happy to find some very odd stories about her life that I was eager to share with readers along the way. Additionally, I wanted Theresa to have a thesis topic somehow related to religion, so she could struggle a bit with the concept of faith. Margery Kempe gives Theresa an outlet—albeit a bizarre and at time frustrating one—for reflection during very difficult times.

For such a terrifying scenario, there is also a lot of humor in the novel. How did you balance the lighter moments with the darker ones?

That’s a good question. This is my fourth book. My first book, The Broken Teaglass, had a lot of humor in it. The two after that didn’t have all that much, and when I sat down to write What Strange Creatures, I was determined to make humor a priority again. I decided that what had prevented...[read on]
Visit Emily Arsenault's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Broken Teaglass.

My Book, The Movie: What Strange Creatures.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Dylan Landis

Dylan Landis is the author of the debut novel Rainey Royal and Normal People Don’t Live Like This, a linked story collection.

Landis's Q & A with Soho Press Editor Mark Doten:

What was the first short story that you remember really having a powerful effect on you? And this might be a little harder, but do you remember the first time you read a full collection and started to have a sense of cumulative power the right group of stories can have?

The stories in Love Medicine, by Louise Erdrich, really peeled me apart as I read them. You could tell they were constructed with a fine instrument and I spent some time dismantling and studying them. I'll go to my grave remembering Henry Lamartine, Jr. in "The Red Convertible" walking into the river and saying, "My boots are filling," before he drowns.

That's also the first linked collection—Erdrich calls it a novel, so forgive me—that made me really grasp how much power the whole can have when the parts harmonize. And it's not just about repeating names and places; it really is about resonance, about events told from more than one point of view and deepening or developing each time, or iconic objects taking on new meaning as they recur. Watch what happens with King Kashpaw's car every time you see it: it's freighted with more emotion. My copy of Love Medicine bristles with scores of tiny Post-its.

I also have to mention Elissa Schappell's linked collection Use Me, another beacon for me. Years later I still remember Evie Wakefield tasting her father's ashes, swallowing—then finding out, two stories later, that her best friend and her father had kissed. Escalation—that's what you get to do when the stories are linked. I hope I pulled that off.

Music and visual art both play big parts in the book. Do you find that art or music are an influence on your fiction? Do you ever write to music?

I do look at and live with a lot of art. But when I write, I find myself wide open to things that aren't part of my life. For instance, Rainey is deeply moved by a pieta and by what she learns about Mary Magdalene. I'm Jewish and not all that spiritual. I don't listen to music, either, which might be why Rainey doesn't like her father's jazz. This is embarrassing to admit, but I live in my head, and listen to my thoughts, and music just distracts. Yes, I realize this is like missing a limb, or a sense. I did start listening to jazz to research Rainey Royal—though never while I wrote—and that was fascinating; it felt like auditory abstract art.

Rainey Royal shares characters with your previous book, Normal People Don't Live Like This. Did you know when you were finishing the first book that you weren't done with them yet? When did the form of Rainey start to take shape?

Rainey appears in the first two stories of Normal People Don't Live Like This, first as a girl who's being molested, and then as a bully. And then she vanishes from the collection. My mentor, Jim Krusoe, had read the manuscript and said, "You need a third Rainey story to balance out the book." But I was closing in on fifty and frankly I was impatient to have a book out. My agent sold it as it was, and I thought I got away with it, but readers kept asking: "What happened to Rainey? Will she get her own book?"

I loved Rainey. For a long time I used her name as my email address. But I spent four years trying to write an altogether different novel, banging my head against the wrong wall, before I finally listened to my heart and wrote that third Rainey story my mentor had wanted—and then a fourth, and a fifth, and finally enough to fill a book.

Before you turned to fiction, you wrote several books about interior design. I'm curious about that--are the satisfactions and challenges of putting that type of book together at all similar to fiction? Do you see any relationship between that work and your fiction? (I will say that Rainey Royal has some very richly realized interior spaces!)

Rooms protect us and cosset us and define us and hopefully are filled with the objects that reflect us. So they're important to fiction. And I like taking rooms apart the way I like taking books apart: to understand how they are made.

But putting a design book together is not like writing a novel. It's about selecting pictures and analyzing rooms; it's a form of journalism, with interviewing, and a little poetry in the writing. You might structure the book on color, or style. Whereas in fiction, structure has to do with story, and in order to write you have to first tap into the subconscious, the mind's basement. That's where I hear and see and smell everything. I can't know a character without seeing his or her space in detail. I can see the furniture and what's in it. The colors, what's on the walls. For me, in fiction, a room is both a stage set and a mirror of the people who live there.

When did you start writing fiction? Is there any advice that present-day you would give to the you that was just starting out?

I was forty, writing articles and books on interior design, and a friend insisted I take a fiction workshop given by Madeleine L'Engle. It was mind-altering the first Wednesday night. Madeleine said, "Nonfiction is about what is true, but fiction is about truth." I knew my life had to change.

I went to workshops and took notes, which became my textbooks. I learned how to read with an eye for craft. I developed a thick enough skin to withstand rejection, which I got plenty of. It took twelve years to publish my first book, which was really my second.

So I would keep telling my younger self, Don't get discouraged. It's not about talent, it's about staying in the chair. And I would say, Stop revising and show your work sooner. I used to polish endlessly before I'd let another writer critique my pages. Now I get the benefit of other eyes on my early drafts, and I'm a faster, better, more fluid writer. Finally I wish I'd heard sooner what my mentor, Jim Krusoe, would tell me later: You have to have the faith that you can do the work, and the patience to get the work done.

What are you reading these days?

I just finished Natalie Baszile's Queen Sugar, which has urgency and beauty in rural Louisiana. And I've begun Anthony Doerr's All The Light We Cannot See, which is practically needlepointed, the language is so fine. On the nightstand is an advance copy of Robin Black's Life Drawing, which comes out here in summer 2014 and is getting rave reviews in the UK. It has a gently ominous first line; I love that.

What can you tell us about your next book?

I'm afraid of jinxing it, so just the title: The Hoarder's Daughter. I'm fascinated by hoarders; there's one in Rainey Royal. What are these people really constructing? And why do we feel like if we could just go through all that stuff we'd find secrets at the bottom?
Visit Dylan Landis's website.

Writers Read: Dylan Landis (November 2009).

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Ellen Cooney

Ellen Cooney is a fiction writer who lives in midcoast Maine. She is the author of nine novels; her stories have appeared in The New Yorker and many literary journals.

Cooney's new novel is The Mountaintop School for Dogs and Other Second Chances.

From her Q & A with Joan Silverman for the Portland Press Herald:

Q: What prompted you to write about the bond between canines and humans?

A: I have three dogs. My middle dog, Skip, was a rescue – very difficult, like a wild animal. I didn’t dare bring him to a class because I couldn’t trust him not to attack dogs or people. I became his teacher in a home-school way. Many times I almost gave up on him. But in working with him, something began to happen inside me and, gradually, he became very deeply attached to me – and I to him.

I realized what I was doing with him was really not very different from my experience as a really young mom, being the teacher of my little boy who was born with cerebral palsy. When he was 12 or 13 years old, my son made me make a vow that I would never write about him. So I wouldn’t have wanted to write about being my son’s teacher. But I wanted to write a novel about teaching.

Q: How different is it writing about one’s family versus these dogs, other than that you don’t need anyone’s permission to write about the dogs?

A: Exactly! This is my ninth novel. I have never drawn directly from my own life or my own family. But as a fiction writer, you’ve got the raw material of your real experience that goes through this dynamic thing that’s my imagination.

I wrote my first poem when I was incredibly young. I was always a writer. I never became one – I just always was one. And my whole childhood and adolescence was about writing. So when it came time to be a mom to my wonderful little baby, who was so handicapped and who I adored, it was natural to me to be...[read on]
Visit Ellen Cooney's website.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Ellen Cooney & Andy, Skip, and Maxine.

My Book, The Movie: The Mountaintop School for Dogs and Other Second Chances.

The Page 69 Test: The Mountaintop School for Dogs and Other Second Chances.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Meg Gardiner

Meg Gardiner was born in Oklahoma and raised in Santa Barbara, California. She graduated from Stanford University and Stanford Law School.

Gardiner practiced law in Los Angeles and taught writing at the University of California Santa Barbara. She’s a former collegiate cross-country runner and a three time Jeopardy! champion. She divides her time between London and Austin, Texas.

Gardiner's new stand-alone thriller is Phantom Instinct.

From the author's Q & A with J.T. Ellison:

What’s your latest book about?

Phantom Instinct is about two survivors of a catastrophic shootout who work together to stop a killer. They have to, because nobody else believes he exists.

Harper Flynn is tending bar at an L.A. club when gunman invade and open fire, killing her boyfriend. Aiden Garrison is the L.A. Sheriff’s Dept. detective on the scene. He takes down two shooters before being severely injured. A third shooter escapes in the chaos—but only Harper and Aiden see him. The problem? Harper is an ex-thief, and the cops don’t trust her word. Worse, Aiden has suffered a traumatic brain injury that leaves him with Fregoli syndrome. This is a kind of face blindness that can cause him to think the person he’s looking at is actually somebody else in disguise. He can think his worst enemy is coming at him, camouflaged as a friend, family, or bystander. He can’t trust his own eyes.

But the killer is back, and stalking survivors. The more Harper and Aiden learn about the shootout, the more dangerous things get. The more they’re drawn to each other. And the more each of them fears that the other might betray them. They have to choose whether to trust their hearts and their instincts. Because the killer is closing in, and wants to put Harper and Aiden—and those they love—in the line of fire.

Where do you write, and what tools do you use?

In an office looking out at live oaks and a southwestern sky. I use my MacBook Pro, with MS Word for Mac. And when I need to flesh out and connect fragmentary ideas, I write by hand on white typing paper. Using a Rollerball Fine Point pen, of which I have many. Many, many. My precious.

What was your favorite book as a child?

......[read on]
Visit Meg Gardiner's website, blog, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

Writers Read: Meg Gardiner.

The Page 69 Test: Phantom Instinct.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 11, 2014

Laura Lane McNeal

Laura Lane McNeal grew up in New Orleans, where she lives today with her husband and two sons. She graduated from Southern Methodist University. She also has an MBA from Tulane and ran her own marketing consulting firm in New Orleans.

From McNeal's Q & A at My Novel Opinion about Dollbaby, her debut novel:

What inspired you to write DOLLBABY?

In a way, I think I’ve waited all my life to write this novel, but it finally came down to a single life-changing event that inspired me—Hurricane Katrina. When New Orleans lay in ruins after the storm, far-flung politicians questioned whether a city below sea level was worth rebuilding. As much as it angered me to hear this, it gave me a renewed determination to do two things: embark on the writing career I’d put off for so many years, and tell the story of New Orleans, the way it was and never would be again. I wrote DOLLBABY for the people of New Orleans.

How did you choose to set your novel in New Orleans during the civil rights era?

My original intention was to recapture a bygone era. I chose 1964 somewhat at random, as it was the beginning of some of my earliest childhood memories. It wasn’t until I began doing research, reading newspapers from the time, that I became cognizant of the extent of social change in the air, and I felt I couldn’t tell a story about New Orleans without the civil rights movement becoming an integral part of it. In a sense, writing the novel led me on my own journey, picking up pieces of a puzzle I didn’t know were missing.

Do you have memories of New Orleans during this time?

New Orleans is...[read on]
Visit Laura Lane McNeal's website.

My Book, The Movie: Dollbaby.

Writers Read: Laura Lane McNeal.

The Page 69 Test: Dollbaby.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 10, 2014

M. P. Cooley

M. P. Cooley's new novel is Ice Shear.

From her Q & A with Elizabeth Floyd Mair for the Times Union:

Q: What made you decide to set the book in [upstate New York]?

A: It started with me being homesick, not just for cute colonial homes and gorgeous fall leaves, but also for the people. People in upstate New York like to laugh at themselves, a characteristic that can sometimes be lacking in Silicon Valley. They are down-to-earth and resilient, especially when you consider what it takes to stick it out in some really economically depressed areas.

Q: What sorts of research did you do?

A: I spoke to a lot of local, state and federal law enforcement, and two police officers read the whole thing. In addition to making some procedural notes, they would comment on how June would walk, how she would look at the world, how she would approach suspects (from the side), and how she would decide who to trust. In my book I have a character who has a "tell," a gesture that indicates that he was lying. In an early draft I had June confront him, point out that she knew he was lying, but my police reviewer had me delete it. Information is an advantage to a police officer, and they wouldn't give it up easily and rewriting that scene where June keeps the secret made it better — there's more tension.

Q: You also did some research into outlaw biker gangs, right?

A: Yes, and that was...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Chris DeRose

Chris DeRose is the author of The Presidents' War: Six American Presidents And The Civil War That Divided Them.

From his Q & A with Randy Dotinga at the Christian Science Monitor:

Q: The ex-presidents all have their own visions about how they'd have avoided the Civil War. What did they say they would have done?

They view the president as conciliator-in-chief, that the president's job is to hold things together, sit on the lid, make concessions for the Southern institutions. It was always about keeping the country together.

All of the ex-presidents supported a negotiated settlement with the South. Four out of the five supported adopting a compromise, although John Tyler really wanted something more like terms of surrender for the North.

Q: How did they contrast to Lincoln?

Lincoln saw his job to be true to the principles on which he was elected, to be honest to the Constitution come what may. He represented a complete transformation of the presidency from conciliator-in-chief to leader of the country.

Q: Of these five ex-presidents – James Buchanan, Martin Van Buren, John Tyler, Franklin Pierce, Millard Fillmore – who's the least supportive of the North?

John Tyler is the biggest a...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 8, 2014

Johanna Stein

Johanna Stein is the author of How Not to Calm a Child on a Plane: And Other Lessons in Parenting from a Highly Questionable Source.

From her Q & A with Caroline Leavitt:

This book came from a Motherlode essay. What made you want to expand it into a book, and how terrifying a process was it?

First off – thanks so much for all those nice things you said. Like most (all?) writers, I live in fear of being exposed as a no-talent fraud. So thanks for those words that I will use as ammo the next time those thoughts come a-calling and take root in my brainfolds.

It wasn’t all that terrifying of a process – not initially, anyway. In fact, it wasn’t until that essay came out in the New York Times and a few agents had approached me that it occurred to me to consider writing a book. (I hope to cripes that doesn’t sound obnoxious -- “oh, look at this opportunity that just fell at my little feetsies!” –- but if it does, know that I’ve been hustling my writerly wares in other mediums for years, and this was just the first time I’d thought to set my hustling sights on a book-type thing. Okay, enough disclaiming, now back to it…)

One of the agents who contacted me was Doug Abrams of Idea Architects. Doug has worked with people like Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela and Richard Branson, so when he wrote to me asking if I’d be interested in working on a book project with him, I was pretty sure I was being Punk’d. But no, turns out he meant it.

Putting the book together took a lot of work (because I write a lot of phenomenally shitty first drafts), but it still wasn’t particularly terrifying. That part came after – once I’d turned the book in and realized there was no turning back. I’d wake up at two o’clock in the morning, then enjoy an all-night anxiety attack.

As a comedian, I’m used to getting feedback relatively quickly. You stand backstage for a few minutes getting sweaty and diarrhea-y, wondering/hoping/praying that the audience is going to laugh… then you step onstage, and whether you succeed or fail, at least the waiting part is over. But with this book, that feeling of backstage anticipation lasted for months. During that time I’d ask my husband and a couple of my closest, trusted writer friends (the few folks who’d read it before I turned it in) to “just tell me that I won’t be embarrassed by how terrible it is”.

Would you have done anything differently, besides not putting you hand inside an already used vomit bag?

Regrets? Not so much with the actual book… my “do-overs” have more to do with...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Phil Klay

Phil Klay is a graduate of Dartmouth College and a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. He served in Iraq’s Anbar Province from January 2007 to February 2008 as a Public Affairs Officer. After being discharged he went to Hunter College and received an MFA. His story “Redeployment” was originally published in Granta and is included in Fire and Forget: Short Stories from the Long War. His writing has also appeared in the New York Times, Newsweek, The Daily Beast, the New York Daily News, Tin House, and The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2012.

Redeployment is his first story collection.

From his Q & A with Kate Kellaway at the Observer:

You write powerfully about the difference between military and civilian life. What was it like for you returning to America from Iraq?

In Anbar province, horrific things happened. I lived near a surgical facility where they'd bring in wounded marines, civilians and insurgents. A marine injured by an insurgent and the insurgent who had injured him might come in together. What is bizarre is that, unlike in the first or second world war, you can take a plane and in a matter of hours be home. I found myself walking down Madison Avenue – beautiful, but there was this sense of estrangement. It was jarring. This was compounded after I decided to get out of the marines. I knew marines who had made the decision to go back – people serving time and time again. Here I was back in a comfortable life. I used to be part of this community where the stakes were life and death – a place where things of huge moral consequence were happening.

Your stories are full of disquiet about the way civilians respond to stories of war.

There is a lot of frustration about civilian apathy. As marines, we sign up for a job that can be very dangerous, we entrust ourselves to the US body politic in the hope they will hold leaders responsible. We fight in the trust that citizens will not keep an incompetent secretary of defence in charge. When you come back and find apathy, it is more than frustrating. Something deeply important you have been involved in is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Josh Weil

Josh Weil was awarded the Sue Kaufman Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters for his debut collection, The New Valley. A National Book Award "Five Under Thirty-Five" author, he has received fellowships from the Fulbright Foundation, Columbia University, the MacDowell Colony, Bread Loaf, and Sewanee. His fiction has appeared in Granta, Esquire, One Story, and Agni.

Weil's debut novel is The Great Glass Sea. From his Q & A with Alex Espinoza at the Los Angeles Review of Books:

ALEX ESPINOZA: Geography features prominently in both your books. The novellas in The New Valley all take place in “the hardscrabble hill country between West Virginia and Virginia.” In The Great Glass Sea, Russia serves as the setting. It seems that people oftentimes hold preconceived notions and ideas about specific locations, both nationally and internationally. How do you as a novelist complicate the geographies your characters inhabit?

JOSH WEIL: You’re right, geography (and simply a sense of place) is vital to me when I write. I wind up using that as my way into a scene, a moment; if I can visualize it, place myself in it, then I can start to make it feel real enough to myself to let the characters work naturally within it. So it’s maybe a bit odd that I tend to write about places that aren’t lifted directly from my own life. I’m not very interested in writing about a guy who lives on a walking trail outside a tourist city in the foothills of California’s Sierra Nevadas, a guy who drives a Prius and goes jogging and lives a life that I find kind of uninteresting. Do I want to push my life in more interesting ways? Yes, always. Do I succeed? Rarely. But one of the things that does get me living closer to something that I’d like to write about is that it’s vital to me to be on the ground in a place when I’m writing about it. Or to at least have fully experienced the specifics of that world — that geography — before I can put the pen down and call it done. For The New Valley that meant that I spent a lot of time living in a remote cabin in the middle of Virginia’s Appalachian Mountains, about as close to the land as you can get these days. I made that my home because I wanted to write stuff that was set there. I was drawn to it (because I’d been born there and, as an adult, grown into myself while holed up there), so I knew I had to spend the kind of time with the place that would allow me to know the details of that world. It’s tremendously helpful to be able to go for a walk in the evening and see something — the way a wild turkey roosts in a tree; the way crows attack a floating hawk — and let that drive the writing, become a part of it. So, first, I’d say, it’s important to really put yourself in the place, observe it carefully, record it, try to get the details down. Obviously, that was harder to do with The Great Glass Sea, since it’s set in Russia. But I did do it. After I wrote the first draft, I went to Russia for research. By research I mostly mean just being there, witnessing life there, trying to soak it up. It helped that I’d...[read on]
Visit Josh Weil's website.

Writers Read: Josh Weil.

The Page 69 Test: The Great Glass Sea.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Hilary Mantel

Hilary Mantel's novels include Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies.

From her Q & A with Tim Adams for the Observer:

While you were working on the first two books [Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies] you were often in a great deal of pain from the health issues related to severe endometriosis that led to a long period in hospital in 2010. How did that affect your writing?

The spell in hospital occurred between the writing of the two books. I have had a lifetime of illness, but I wouldn't like to say how that feeds into what I have written. It was certainly a very strange time in 2010 though. I had won the Booker with Wolf Hall, and then there was a year in which I had two bouts of major surgery and it was sort of a hole bitten out of time. When I came to write Bring up the Bodies I did so in a storm: really, very, very fast. I suppose I had been mentally preparing all that year.

In a diary piece you wrote about your time in hospital, you mentioned the hallucinatory episodes you experienced. It sounds like some of those hallucinations led directly to the stories in the collection you have coming out later this year called The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher. Is that right?

Yes it is. That title story I started years and years ago and I could not get it right. The first night I was in hospital full of morphine I simply stayed up all night making up stories. And one of the things that happened was that I saw the assassin. I knew exactly who he was. So the missing piece of that story dropped into place. And I made up some other stories too. It wasn't me going temporarily mad; it was a drug-induced thing. But as a writer you try and use everything.

Given that morphine experience, have you been tempted to use drugs to aid imagination before or since?

No, it was a one-off. For every profitable idea, I think, 10 are going to be garbage. My problem is never ideas. My problem is...[read on]
Wolf Hall made Ester Bloom's top ten books for fans of the television series House of Cards, Rachel Cantor's list of the ten worst jobs in books, Kathryn Williams's reading list on pride, the Barnes & Noble Review's list of books on baby-watching in Great Britain, Julie Buntin's top ten list of literary kids with deadbeat and/or absent dads, Hermione Norris's 6 best books list, John Mullan's list of ten of the best cardinals in literature, the Barnes & Noble Review's list of five books on dangerous minds and Lev Grossman's list of the top ten fiction books of 2009, and is one of Geraldine Brooks's favorite works of historical fiction; Matt Beynon Rees called it "[s]imply the best historical novel for many, many years."

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 4, 2014

Rachel Kushner

Rachel Kushner’s latest novel is The Flamethrowers. Her debut novel, Telex from Cuba, was a finalist for the 2008 National Book Award and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, winner of the California Book Award, and a New York Times bestseller and Notable Book. It was named a best book by the Washington Post Book Book World, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Seattle Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Christian Science Monitor, and Amazon. Kushner's fiction and essays have appeared in the New York Times, The Paris Review, The Believer, Artforum, Bookforum, Fence, Bomb, Cabinet, and Grand Street.

From her Q & A with Rachel Cooke for the Guardian:

The Flamethrowers is such a capacious book, spanning two continents and half a century. How did you get the idea for it?

It began around the time I was selling my first novel. My editor asked my agent: does she have another novel in the works? I didn't but, impulsively, I said I wanted to write a novel about the art world in the 70s. I was thinking about that era. New York was decimated at the time. It was bankrupt, crime was rampant, there were blackouts and looting. But it was also this incredibly vibrant place. You could live on very little money and find a space to work, and you had the freedom to be creative.

Your descriptions of speed in the book – Reno racing across the Utah salt flats – are amazing. Are you a speed freak yourself?

It's opaque to me why I wanted to write about it, but I did spend quite a few years riding motorcycles, and I was a ski racer when I was young. I have crashed on a motorcycle that was going at 140mph, so I know what it feels like. But I don't like to emphasise the autobiographical echoes in the book: there is something about speed that would interest me even if I hadn't known it.

How seriously do you take the art world? In the novel, you seem to be sending up your artist characters. One of them carries a barber's pole wherever he goes.

I take it very seriously, and that's my intention in the book. A lot of people know...[read on]
Learn about Kushner's ten top books about 1970s art.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Ariel Schrag

Ariel Schrag is a writer for The L Word and the author and illustrator of a series of graphic memoirs (Potential, Likewise) and newly released debut novel Adam.

From her Q & A with Heather Seggel at Slate:

In just the past few years, trans visibility has increased, and transpeople have begun to receive more respect and consideration. Your novel is comic in tone and often ironically grapples with trans-related issues. Did you worry about charges of trivializing the lives of transpeople by taking this approach?

The premise of the novel is supposed to be provocative. It’s supposed to ignite feelings of “Oooh, that’s ‘problematic,” Fiction should get people thinking and talking and the idea of a cis teenage boy passing as a trans man brought up many issues and questions for me, which is why I wrote Adam. I don’t believe a premise alone can be trivializing. If someone finishes the book and finds the story trivializing, I’d be interested to hear why. If you haven’t read the book, I’d ask that you refrain from forming an opinion until you do. Gender and sexual identity are things I’ve struggled with in my personal experience and the lesbian/trans subculture of the East Village/Williamsburg is the world I’ve lived in for the past 15 years, so though told through a cis straight boy’s eyes, it’s a novel that’s very close to me.

In terms of issues around gender, what changes have you seen between 2006 and today?

Much has changed in terms of trans visibility in the past eight years and I don’t believe Adam would make sense set in the present day. Adam posing as a trans man comes out of his initial ignorance about trans people in general. Because, in 2006, trans identity is ...[read on]
Adam is one of Emily Gould's six favorite books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Richard Posner

Richard A. Posner is Circuit Judge, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, and a senior lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School.

He is America’s most cited legal scholar, and his books include Reflections on Judging and Not a Suicide Pact: The Constitution in a Time of National Emergency.

From his 2013 Q & A with Noah Charney for The Daily Beast:

Do you enjoy courtroom drama novels and films, or is it too close to home? What are some favorites that are both entertaining and realistic?

Going back to the Greeks, there’s the trial of Orestes in Aeschylus. In Shakespeare there are trials, in King Lear and The Merchant of Venice. There are trial-like legal proceedings in Measure for Measure. Melville’s Billy Budd, Kafka’s The Trial. Loads of them really. Camus’ L’Etranger.

How about some of the more contemporary ones? Do you enjoy Scott Turow or John Grisham?

I don’t care for Grisham. Scott Turow, I’ve read two of his books: Presumed Innocent and Innocent. Very well-written. He’s an experienced lawyer and his books are very authentic. He’s a very good lawyer, also a very good writer, so his work is very good. Recent people, like William Gadis. James Gould Cousins did excellent legal writing. I’ve written a book on law and literature. Oh, and The Bonfire of the Vanities. That’s very good. And there are some excellent movies. This must be from the early ‘40s, the Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn, Adam’s Rib. That’s terrific. And Twelve Angry Men, with Henry Fonda. The Rumpole television series is excellent. Our judicial system is modeled on the English, but they are more theatrical, rhetorical, eloquent. They use...[read on]
See Posner's 2007 Q & A with the political scientist Cary Federman.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 1, 2014

Ayelet Waldman

Ayelet Waldman's latest novel is Love and Treasure.

From her Q & A with Megan Fishmann at BookPage:

This novel is a treasure trove of information about the early suffragette movement, the Gold Train and the art appraisal process. How much time did you spend researching, and where did you draw the line between research enriching your novel and distracting you from writing it?

Research is so much more fun than writing that it can be a delicious trap. I began this novel with research. I found the story of the Gold Train, and then began reading about Budapest. Very quickly I realized I wanted to set some part of the story during the period immediately before World War I, a period of great security for the Jews of Budapest. That’s pretty much all I knew when I packed my bags for Budapest and Salzburg.

It was in Budapest that I learned about the International Women’s Suffrage Conference, which inspired the third section of the novel. In Salzburg I learned about the DP camps, and then visiting Dachau I found out more about the fate of Hungary’s Jews. That was enough for me to begin the novel. I kept researching throughout, but I forced myself to write at the same time, both because then my research could be more focused, and because otherwise I knew I could...[read on]
Learn more about the author and her work at Ayelet Waldman's website.

Writers Read: Ayelet Waldman.

The Page 69 Test: Love and Treasure.

--Marshal Zeringue